Scientific Name: Megasoma elephas
With a long “trunk” and horns, it’s not difficult to see how our August Bug of the Month, the elephant beetle, got its name. Much like the pachyderm it’s named after, this enormous arthropod is one giant in the insect world you’ve got to see to believe.
Native to Mexico, Central and South America, the elephant beetle finds its home in the lush rainforests of these tropical regions. As you can imagine, its name is derived from its prominent physical features that resemble an elephant. These features, only found in males of the species, include three horns, with two positioned on the side of its head, and a longer version that protrudes from the middle with a forked end. Altogether, these horns resemble an elephant’s tusks and trunk. Adults have a shiny black body covered with furry hairs that have a yellowish to brown tint.
Further compounding the elephant resemblance is their size. Adults can reach up to 5 inches in length and weigh up to 1.25 ounces with males being two to three times larger than their female counterparts. Their larva is even more substantial in size reaching lengths of 9 inches and weighing up to 3 ounces. That’s a big baby!
From larva to adulthood, the elephant beetle’s diet stays consistent. Considered recyclers of the rainforest, these insects make their meal out of rotting and decaying plants and fruits. As they grow, the larva will feast upon upwards of three pounds of decayed wood, roots and leaves during their two to three-year process towards maturity. While wood and plant material are the elephant beetle’s main courses, they also consume tree sap, which could be considered their form of dessert.
Sound the Horn
The horns that give these beetles their elephant-like resemblance aren’t just for show. During an intense mating season, males will use their horn like medieval lances and joust with rival suitors for a female’s attention. They also use them like a shovel to burrow into the sand to hide and like a crowbar to pry up bark and obtain the sweet sap that could be underneath.
“Facts of Elephant Beetles” Pets on Mom.me
“Elephant Beetle” Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries